Tyler Perry, Byron Allen look to buy BET stake, sparking possible bidding war

A man with a beard and glasses in a dark shirt.
Tyler Perry is in talks to buy a majority stake of BET.
(KIrk D. McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Producer and star Tyler Perry has expressed interest in buying a majority stake in BET as the television network’s owner, Paramount Global, looks to bring on a substantial partner, according to two people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment.

Hours after Perry’s interest in BET was revealed, L.A.-based media mogul Byron Allen indicated that he too was jumping into the fray.

“Byron Allen is interested in buying BET, and he will be pursuing the acquisition of the network,” Allen’s spokesperson said late Monday.


The dueling interest could benefit Paramount, which has been trying to raise money by shedding assets to pay down debt and to invest in its two-year-old streaming service, Paramount+. Paramount wants to retain a portion of the BET Media Group, which includes the VH1 television channel and the BET+ streaming service, according to one of the knowledgeable people.

A marriage between Paramount and either of the suitors would unite power players in African American culture and media.

BET established itself as the go-to cable destination for Black-themed shows more than 40 years ago. In recent years, Perry’s programs, including “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne,” have performed well on BET.

Perry, who also is a respected actor, has shown an appetite to expand his empire, which includes his popular “Madea” movie franchise, live plays and a sprawling 300-acre studios complex near Atlanta.

Comedian and media mogul Byron Allen in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Comedian and media mogul Byron Allen also has expressed interest in buying BET. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
(Chris Carlson/AP)

Allen, a stand-up comedian who founded the prolific Entertainment Studios, has been on a buying kick during the last decade.


In 2018, Allen purchased the Weather Channel. He also has added about two dozen broadcast television stations that air broadcast network programming to his portfolio. His Allen Media Group, which he founded 30 years ago, also owns a free streaming app called Local Now, which airs local news, weather, sports, traffic, movies and TV shows.

Allen also launched a high-profile legal battle in 2015 against Comcast Corp. and Charter Communications, alleging race discrimination because the pay-TV providers didn’t offer some of his smaller TV channels on their cable systems. The battle reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected Allen’s arguments. The various sides eventually settled their disputes.

Representatives for Perry and Paramount declined to comment Monday.

Conversations with Perry are in the early stages, one knowledgeable source said.

Entertainment Studios founder Byron Allen is known for unexpected bets, such as recently buying the Weather Channel’s parent company for $300 million.

April 25, 2018

It wasn’t clear Monday whether Allen and Paramount executives had initiated discussions. .

The potential sale of BET was first reported by the Wall Street Journal; Hollywood trade papers quickly reported on Perry’s interest.

In recent years, Paramount Global, formerly known as ViacomCBS, has been searching for ways to raise capital through a number of asset sales. More than a year ago, it reached a deal to sell its Studio City television and movie lot, for years the West Coast headquarters of CBS, for $1.85 billion.

The New York-based company is smaller than most of its rivals, and it has been hit hard by declines in cable TV viewership.

Paramount recognizes the unique value of BET and its 3-year-old streaming service, BET+, and thus, it would like to retain a stake in the enterprise, according to one of the knowledgeable people.


Tyler Perry Studios currently has a minority stake in the BET+ service, so any union would expand the collaboration between those two parties.

This weekend, ‘Madea’ mogul Tyler Perry expands one of the largest film/TV studios in the country — and pays homage to pioneering African American entertainers.

Oct. 2, 2019

Entrepreneur Robert Johnson launched BET, which stands for Black Entertainment Television, in 1980. The channel started with very few shows, including a gospel music series and a video music program with a set so flimsy that the host’s podium once collapsed on the air. But the channel grew and thrived.

The media giant then called Viacom acquired BET in 2003 for $3 billion.

This year’s potential sale comes amid a dramatic reshuffling in the media industry as legacy companies struggle to make the leap into streaming and scale back from their traditional focus on building linear TV channels.

Paramount has about 77 million subscribers to its various streaming services, including about 56 million subscribers to Paramount+. More than 21 million customers have signed up for its smaller streaming offerings such as BET+ and Showtime+.

Paramount has not provided a precise figure for BET+’s customer base.

Staff writer Greg Braxton contributed to this report.